#ThankfulThursday: Reflections Upon My First and Second “Tours” of Walter Reed

If you remember, I had written for our Memorial Day article mentioning about a family member receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Now that my family member made it “official” on social media that they are being treated for cancer, I think it is safe to say (at least), that the family member I was referring to all this time is my brother. I just returned from a “second tour” of two weeks (last time I stayed a little over three weeks in May), and I am still amazed and inspired. I wanted to take a moment to share a slice of what I had learned during my most recent trip there.

As always, the medical and support staff at Walter Reed are phenomenal. I feel that my words do not reflect how much I admire and respect all that they do at the hospital for active military and veterans. The medical team working with my brother has been diligent (sometimes over-diligent, but that’s okay). He is still not affected by nausea from the chemo (thank goodness for those newer anti-emetics!) However, he was more fatigued this time around (and lost more hair). Seeing him this way was kind of hard for me. What had kept me up was his attitude through it all. He has kept a positive attitude and, whenever he would go in for an appointment (for the infusion, labs or follow-up with the doctor) he would be like, “Let’s do this!” I am very happy and grateful for the way he has been handling this.

Like last time, we were staying at the Fisher House. This time, however, were a different mix of patients from my last visit. I spoke to a few of them and listened to some of their stories. Between their stories and the stories of my brother, I got a glimpse of active military life. There was one man who was there with his mother – I am going to call him “Joe.” When we – my brother and I – first saw him, he looked like anyone else, except that he was visibly missing the right half of his head. I was amazed that he was able to stand, walk and speak pretty well. Later, when I struck up a conversation over breakfast with him and his mother, and I learned a lot more about him.

About 13 years ago, his convoy was hit by an IED (that’s Improvised Explosive Device). The shock and shrapnel hit him in his head. One of the people in his unit refused to leave without him, despite others telling them to “just go.” He wasn’t expected to survive the night. He was flown to a hospital in Germany, where his mother met up with him. He was alive, but still wasn’t expected to survive very long. He was stabilized and brought to Walter Reed. I am not sure what happened next (they skipped that part of the story), but eventually, he did awaken and was in a wheelchair at first. His medical team remade part of his skull with a plastic-like polymer, so his brain could still be protected (of course). They are here now because that polymer “shield” had gotten infected and they had to remove it. Now, they are preparing to put a titanium one in its place.

Joe can still understand what you are saying and he can keep up in a conversation. Sometimes, if you mention something that strikes a memory in him, he will tell you. He said that his neurologist uses him as an example for his lectures at the teaching hospital. They think that his brain made new connections to compensate for what is lost. He learned to walk on a therapy horse, because their hips move similar to ours when they walk. I then learned that he is blind in his left eye and doesn’t see very well in his right. Sometimes, he has to walk with one arm on his Mother for guidance. He still remembers music/songs that he likes and is re-learning to play the bass guitar (again, I was amazed because the right-side of the brain supposedly controls creativity and music appreciation). The one blessing in all of this, is that he has kept a positive attitude, despite all that had happened. Yes, he had been frustrated at times when he couldn’t do or remember something. No signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) either. Otherwise, he has been pretty happy, he said that he would still enlist, even after knowing that this would happen.

Hearing from their experiences has given me more perspective on things. There were times I would feel down and hopeless. Yet, my brother and Joe still maintained a positive attitude, despite what they are going through. I am definitely inspired and I am humbled by their experiences.

So, my dear reader, I hope that my short story gave you some inspiration and perspective. Again, I realize there are times where we feel overwhelmed and stressed with the tasks of daily living. It may help to try and take a deep breath, then think to ourselves, “This is only temporary; this will come to pass.” Also, it would help to remember that keeping a positive attitude while weathering the current storm can help us emotionally and physically in the end (ex: less stress, less strain on the heart, less emotional toll). I am also a big fan of “talking it out,” because sometimes, by saying it out loud, it helps with the problem’s “release.” Plus, you may get some needed advice and guidance from the person you are discussing this with. There are also crisis hotlines available that one can call or even text – some depending on your area, but most are nationwide. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a list of crisis lines available (in Chicago, they are listed here: http://namichicago.org/en/crisis-lines/), which includes the Suicide Prevention Hotline as well (1-800-273-TALK).

Is there someone that you know or met in your life that gave you as much inspiration as Joe and my Brother had given me? Feel free to share in the comment box below!

–Maeven

Meal-Prep Monday: Chicken Adobo (Filipino Style)

Hi There!

The Filipino Chicken Adobo that I grew up with was a stew made with chicken, beef or pork that we placed on steamed rice.  The best part for me was mixing the stew liquid with my rice (at one point, I was convinced that I could live just off of that).

If you were to ask three different Filipinos how they make adobo, you will get three different answers.  Even if you were to go to the Philippines and asked three different people in the same village, you will get three different answers.   It’s kind of like mole with Mexicans – you ask three different people how they make their mole, you will get three different answers.

When I was (trying) to learn how to make this dish, my Mom would adjust amounts by taste – she never knew if it was 1 cup of this and 2 teaspoons of that.  At one point I did measure out everything, but can’t seem to find the recipe that I made out.  Even now, I season to taste (which probably doesn’t help my fellow readers much!)  Fear not, I found a recipe that was close to the ratios of the ingredients that I used (see below).  However, the way I was taught to make it was slightly different.

You will need:

Chicken drumsticks, thighs and/or wings (I used a package of 4 thighs and drumsticks each)

4 cloves Garlic

1 sliced or chopped onion

Whole Peppercorn

3 Bay Leaves

White or Apple Cider Vinegar (there is debate on which to use among Filipinos, I hear!)

Soy Sauce

Water

Sugar (brown or regular, again, up to debate)

Fresh ground salt/pepper to taste

Steamed Rice for Serving

Gathered all the ingredients first, of course

This dish can be made on a stove top, slow cooker or pressure cooker.  Today, I went old-school and made it on my stove top.

A lot of recipes will state to let the chicken sit in the soy sauce/vingar marinade for 1 to 3 hours.  However, this recipe seems so forgiving that, if you just put everything in the pot, it would still come out delicious!

In fact, that is what I did – I just threw everything in the pot, from the liquids (soy sauce, vinegar and water) in a 1:2:1 ratio (for example, 1 cup soy sauce, 2 cups vinegar, 1 cup water) into my stock pot.  Then added the garlic, onion, peppercorn and bay leaves.


Followed by the meat.


Allow to come to a boil, then cover and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until cooked through.

Serve on top of freshly steamed rice, with vegetables of choice, such as steamed green beans or asparagus.

No, I didn’t eat the bay leaf…

Disclaimer: I sometimes forget the peppercorn when I make this.  However, because this dish is so forgiving (at least for me), it still tastes great with just the fresh ground pepper on top.

There you have it!  Have you made Filipino Adobo too?  What did you think of it?  Please leave your comments in the box below!

Until next time!

–Maeven

Recipe:

https://www.kawalingpinoy.com/chicken-adobo/

 

 

 

 

 

Wanderlust Wednesday: Washington, D.C. (Part 3)

We started off at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  I felt that it is one of the many places to visit while in D.C.  The Holocaust was just an unspeakable and horrible period in the World’s history, yet it is also something that should be reflected and learned about so it is not repeated.

You may think that you know all there is about the Holocaust, but I learned some new things while at the museum – either that or I learned about it, forgot about it then re-learned it again.   For example, other than incarcerating Jews, the Germans also sent Jehovah’s Witnesses, political prisoners (aka anyone who spoke up against Hitler and the Nazis), scientists and homosexuals.  At one point, the amount of countries that were controlled by the Nazis were so far and vast, those trying to escape them, really had no where to go.  Then, once the war was over, because there was so much destruction, especially in the Allied countries, those that were able to return, couldn’t.

They did have stories that I did remember and/or read about.  They had a section on Anne Frank, about her life, when she was captured and when she died.  They also had a section on Auschwitz, how the prisoners were transported by freight cars in extreme conditions.  Then how they were divided up, first by gender, then whether they will continue at the camp undergoing hard labor, or if they will go to the gas chamber.

They also had a room that had written excerpts as well as recordings of those who had survived the Holocaust.  They described how they were brought to the camps, how their life was while living in the barracks, or how it was when they were rescued at the end of the war.  After seeing how everyone was taken, imprisoned and/or put to death, you can’t help but to feel awe for those who had lived through such horror, anger for those who had imprisoned them, and sadness for those who did not survive.

Now, I wish I could have taken more photos around the museum.  However, I also felt that this was such a somber and heavy topic, that I did not want to be snapping photos at every turn.   You can’t help but to feel affected in some way after that.

Next was the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.   Just like the name suggests, this museum chronicles how man got into the air and space by craft.

We saw the plane flown by the Wright Brothers!

The museum gave a nod to women pilots in America, too!

Some military planes and drones…

As well as space craft and satellites…

We even got on one of the simulator rides!

From there we headed towards the White House.  We were only able to take a picture from outside the gates.

Shortly after we returned home, they announced that they were no longer allowing people in that area anymore (good thing we went, then!)

Finally, our last stop was at the State Capitol.  We were able to get a tour after contacting our state representative, Tammy Duckworth.

For a big building, we weren’t allowed into a lot of it.  Even though there were some rooms there for the representatives, they really spend most of their time across the street in either the Rayburn House Office Building or in the Hart Senate Office Building.

By the time we were done with our tour, we were plenty tired!  We would be leaving early the next morning.   I did feel like we covered a lot of ground and we would love to come back!

How about you?  Have you been here as well?  What did you think?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

Until next time,

–Maeven

References:

https://www.ushmm.org/

https://airandspace.si.edu/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/

https://www.visitthecapitol.gov/

Wanderlust Wednesday: Washington D.C. (Part 1)

Though I have lived here all my life and traveled to a number of places, I still haven’t been to D.C. (what?!!)  So my family and I decided to remedy that and take a road trip to America’s Capital this past April.  It would be for an extended weekend (four to five days), and I knew that I wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface on visiting everything DC had to offer.  However, we will make an effort to make a dent!

Pro Tip:  The White House, the Capital Building, the Pentagon, and the Supreme Court offer tours by staff or volunteers.  Some of them are arranged through your local Congress Representative or through the website.  When I looked into getting tours four months before our trip, there were none available (already booked?).  We did manage to get a tour of the Capital Building weeks before our trip after placing our names on standby with Tammy Duckworth’s office.  That being said, if you know for certain that you will be wanting to tour any of these places, look into them ASAP!

The Family on Our Fantastic Journey

We decided to drive there, which is about 12 hours one way.  Our first day, we drove halfway and stopped in Toledo, OH.  BTW, I really like the rest stops on the Ohio Turnpike over Indiana and Pennsylvania (at least on the route we took).

The next day, we completed the journey.  We did this because we had an AirBnB reservation – our FIRST AirBnB reservation ever – and we had to get the key from them OR the lockbox.  I didn’t want to chance having to get the key from them at a late hour.

Usually I am able to get a decent price on hotel rooms, but in the DC area, the hotel rooms were running at least $200/night.  I decided to try AirBnB for our trip.  For five days, for a 1BR apartment with parking, with taxes and cleaning charges, it was $550.

Anyway, we arrived in the area through Virginia.  We were still early for check-in, so we decided to stop at Arlington Cemetery first.   Some of the oldest resting places there date back to before the Civil War.

 

20170408_160659
View of the Washington Memorial from Arlington
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United States Air Force Memorial

 

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The Grave of Robert Peary, who was a US Navy Officer that made several expeditions to the North Pole.

 

View of the Pentagon from Arlington Cemetary

 

McClellan Gate – for Major General George B. McClellan

We then headed to our AirBnB to rest for the night.  We were in an area called Columbia Heights.  I noticed a couple of Greek (ie Fraternity/Sorority) houses on our drive up 11th Street.  I then found out we were near Howard University.  I did a quick Wiki search on them and found out this:  Howard University originally opened shortly after the Civil War, originally to be a theological seminary for African-American Clergymen.  Now, it offers a diverse array of undergraduate programs and graduate programs (ie Business,  Education, Law, Medicine, Nursing, etc).  Also, they had produced Fulbright Scholars, Rhodes Scholars, Truman Scholars, Pickering Fellows and a Marshall Scholar.  In 2015 it ranked in the top 75 in the Bloomberg Businessweek college rankings.  It also produces the most black doctorate recipients of any university.

In other words, there are a lot of smart people at Howard University!  Kudos!

We have only been in the area for a few hours and I’m already learning a lot!

For dinner, we ate at a nearby restaurant called “The Coupe” and it was recommended to us by our AirBnB hosts.

 

Grilled Hangar Steak

 

 

Mac and Cheese
Cuban Sandwich with House Made Chips

 

Getting back to our AirBnB, our apartment was spotless (thanks to the professional cleaning service they hire) and the hosts were very thorough and accessible.  If you are ever in the D.C. area, and don’t mind a short commute, look up Host Alper under “Cozy 1BD apt steps away from metro with parking.”

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Peary

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_University

http://www.thecoupedc.com/

https://www.airbnb.com

 

 

 

 

Meal Prep Monday: Trader Joe’s Lemon Rosemary Chicken

It’s been a while since I had made anything with Chicken.  I had also read a LOT of good reviews for Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary Chicken from Trader Joe’s. So, I decided to try it out.

The directions were pretty straight – forward. Heat up the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the chicken in a shallow baking pan. Roast for 60 to 75 minutes, as directed. 

When finished, I let it cool enough for me to handle.  I deboned the chicken (because they look at you funny if you go full-on Cave(wo)man in the office cafeteria).  I then placed some steamed asparagus with a medley of sweet potatoes. Bam! All done!

I hope that you found this easy,  too!

–Maeven

Meal Prep Monday: Greek Lentil Salad

I once had ordered lentil salad from a restaurant.  I won’t name them, because my experience wasn’t stellar.  However, this recipe inspired me to try it on my own.

Continue reading “Meal Prep Monday: Greek Lentil Salad”